[IRP] US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) proposal

Cynthia Wong cynthia
Tue Nov 15 23:05:51 EET 2011

Dear colleagues,

As some of you are aware, a new copyright enforcement bill, SOPA (H.R.  
3261) has been introduced in the U.S. that could greatly harm freedom  
of expression, access to knowledge, and privacy globally.

For a summary of the bill and a list of concerns, see CDT's briefing  
paper here: http://www.cdt.org/paper/sopa-summary
And blog post here: http://www.cdt.org/blogs/david-sohn/2710house-copyright-bill-casts-dangerously-broad-net

I've also copied a shorter summary in text below.

CDT is compiling all the blog posts and other writing that has been  
done on SOPA, which we are passing onto policymakers in the U.S.  You  
can see the current list here: http://cdt.org/report/growing-chorus-opposition-stop-online-piracy-act

If you have also written about concerns on the potential impact of  
SOPA on human rights, civil liberties, or economic innovation and  
would like your voice added to the list we're sending to Congress,  
please get in touch with me -- we would love to add them to the list.

In addition, if you want to know more about the proposed law, please  
feel free to get in touch.  CDT believes this bill could have impact  
far beyond the U.S.'s borders.  Two letters signed by a broad range of  
civil society groups will be presented to Congress tomorrow, in time  
for a hearing being held on the bill.  You can read them here and here

Best regards,

Cynthia Wong

Cynthia M. Wong
Director, Global Internet Freedom Project
Center for Democracy & Technology

CDT  ?  1634 I Street NW  ?  Suite 1100  ?  Washington, DC 20006
E cynthia at cdt.org P +1-202-407-8835 F +1-202-637-0968

Keeping the Internet Open, Innovative & Free!

Follow our work on Twitter @CenDemTech @cynthiamw

You can read the full text of the bill here.

Summary of relevant sections of SOPA:

Section 102 allows the government to impose new obligations on a range  
of intermediaries to block access to sites that facilitate criminal  
copyright infringement
Section 102 defines new actions that may be brought by the U.S.  
Attorney General against a ?foreign infringing site? or portion  
thereof.  ?Foreign infringing sites? are websites that commit or  
?facilitate? commission of criminal copyright or trademark infringement.
The A.G. can bring an action either against the operator of such a  
website, or in rem against the site itself or its domain name. The  
court can then order the site to cease and desist further activity as  
a foreign infringing site.
Once a court has issued an order, the A.G. can serve a copy on any of  
several intermediaries, who must take action specified in the bill  
within five days:
ISPs must comply with an open ended blocking order (whatever is  
?technically feasible and reasonable?), including but not limited to  
DNS blocking;
search engines must take measures designed to prevent the site (or  
portion thereof) from being served as links;
payment networks (credit card companies, Paypal, etc.) must take  
measures designed to prevent transactions between the site and U.S.  
ad networks must take measures designed to stop serving ads on the  
site or for the site, and to stop receiving payments from the site.
The A.G. can bring actions against these intermediaries to compel  
Finally, the A.G. can bring an action to stop anyone who provides  
tools to circumvent the intermediary measures SOPA requires.

Section 103 creates a private notice-and-cutoff system that allows  
private parties to target a website?s financial resources if the  
website does not monitor for infringement
Section 103 codifies a private notice-and-cutoff system that allows a  
rightsholder to demand that payment and ad networks stop doing  
business with any site that the rightsholder believes is ?dedicated to  
theft of U.S. property.?  Such websites include any sites that take  
?deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability? of  
infringing activity.
If the intermediary does not cease business with the site, either  
based on its own judgment or because it receives a counter-notice from  
the site, the rightsholder can then initiate a private action similar  
to the A.G. action above.
If an intermediary still does not comply, the court may issue an order  
to show cause why the intermediary should not be ordered by the court  
to comply and possibly to pay ?an appropriate monetary sanction.?

Our concerns are many, but the most serious include the following:
CDT remains opposed to the bill?s ISP blocking provisions.  The DNS- 
blocking required will be trivial to circumvent, potentially quite  
overbroad in its impact on lawful expression, is inconsistent with key  
cybersecurity initiatives, and sets a dangerous international  
precedent for Internet blocking.  SOPA goes beyond the DNS-filtering  
proposed in the Protect IP Act, imposing a broader, open-ended  
blocking obligation on ISPs.
The definition of the sites that the U.S. government can bring actions  
against sweeps far too broadly.  Even innocent sites may be found to  
"facilitate" infringement and thus find themselves caught up in  
enforcement actions.  A video-sharing site with thousands of innocent  
users sharing their own non-infringing videos, but a small minority  
using the site to criminally infringe, could find its domain blocked  
by in the U.S.
Similarly, the definition of sites that may be subject of private  
actions is dramatically overbroad, in ways that could create de facto  
monitoring obligations for websites.  Any rightsholder could cut off  
the financial lifeblood of user-generated content sites unless those  
sites actively monitor and police user activity to the rightsholder?s  
The private action provision risks creating unprecedented incentives  
for user-driven sites to implement elaborate user-monitoring systems  
to "confirm" whether individual users are infringing.  These and other  
sites have flourished under current protections from intermediary  
liability in U.S. law, which expressly reject a general obligation to  
actively track and police user behavior.  Creating incentives to  
perform such burdensome monitoring (or risk losing financial means of  
support) would be hugely damaging to free expression and user privacy.

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